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Highlights

GAO reviewed the corrective action process used by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to encourage states to solve Food Stamp Program problems.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture 1. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to revise FNS regulations to expand the definition of what constitutes a major program weakness that must be included in state corrective action plans. Dollar losses or the percent of affected cases could be a better benchmark in some situations than the number or percent of project areas involved, which is the present criterion.
Closed - Implemented
This recommendation should be closed.
Department of Agriculture 2. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to notify FNS regional offices and states that corrective action plans should be comprehensive. All major problems should be included in the plans, and proposed solutions should be sufficient to eliminate or substantially reduce the identified problems. Target dates for initiating and completing planned actions should reflect the relative priority for solving each problem.
Closed - Implemented
FNS published final rules in the February 4, 1987, Federal Register that addressed the corrective action plans and require that such plans be comprehensive and address all identified deficiencies.
Department of Agriculture 3. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to obtain and review all state management evaluation reports and the states' analysis of those reports to ensure that states do not omit major problems from their corrective action plans. Doing this should ensure that states follow regulation requirements to analyze results of management evaluations to identify problems that should be addressed in state plans.
Closed - Implemented
This recommendation should be closed.
Department of Agriculture 4. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to assist states to do the amount and type of analysis of program information needed to develop effective corrective action plans. One option might be to extend the Mid-Atlantic Region's error rate reduction analysis and research system to other FNS regions and to expand that initiative to include the results of management evaluation reviews, as well as quality control reviews.
Closed - Implemented
This recommendation should be closed.
Department of Agriculture 5. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to analyze, at the headquarters level, all approved state corrective action plans. Such analyses could give FNS a national perspective on the adequacy of state corrective action plans, offer ideas for further technical assistance, and provide FNS headquarters with the information needed to evaluate and guide regional approval of corrective action plans.
Closed - Implemented
The FNS final rule makes states responsible for implementation of state corrective plans. FNS regional offices provide technical assistance. States are required to update the plans twice a year and submit a revised plan to FNS regional offices. FNS headquarters receives information on completed corrective actions.
Department of Agriculture 6. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to notify the states that corrective actions are to be implemented in accordance with approved dates.
Closed - Implemented
FNS regional offices monitor state semiannual correective action plans to verify that states implement corrective actions in accordance with the rule of February 4, 1987.
Department of Agriculture 7. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to ensure that states adequately monitor and evaluate corrective actions, as required by FNS regulations. For particularly serious problems, FNS should consider requiring states to send it periodic status reports on actions not yet completed. States not having adequate monitoring and evaluation techniques should be required to include these as problems in their corrective action plans and correct them just as they would any other program problems.
Closed - Implemented
This recommendation should be closed.
Department of Agriculture 8. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to develop and issue policy guidance to regions on when to use the formal warning process. The policy guidance should include a list of the most appropriate program problems which FNS believes should be subject to this process.
Closed - Implemented
This recommendation should be closed.
Department of Agriculture 9. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to use the formal sanction warning process as needed to improve states' administration of the corrective action process. It could be used to encourage states to develop comprehensive plans, carry them out in an effective and timely manner, and monitor and evaluate progress toward eliminating or substantially reducing major problems.
Closed - Not Implemented
FNS fears that extensive reliance on formal warnings might strain federal and state relations. Therefore, FNS will focus on elminating the deficiencies, providing resources to correct the problem, versus striving to implement a formal warning process.
Department of Agriculture 10. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to withhold approval of any state requests for establishing management units for review purposes, which would materially reduce a state's ability to identify statewide problems.
Closed - Implemented
FNS notified each of its regional offices to comply with this recommendation.
Department of Agriculture 11. The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to revise regulations and manuals to streamline and restructure management evaluation requirements and update review coverage. This guidance should help states target their management evaluations on those program areas needing the most attention while ensuring adequate review coverage and consistent review efforts among the states. FNS should, as part of this revision to regulations and manuals, add any review requirements originating from legislative changes adopted since 1980 when the most recent regulations and handbooks were issued.
Closed - Implemented
FNS revised the regulations which govern management evaluations to streamline the management evaluation requirements, but has not updated the manuals.

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